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Catamaran service between Florida and Nassau on hold again [Guardian]
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Posted by:May 20th 2004, 01:52:04 pm
Fig Tree News TeamMay 20, 2004 - 08:27
Prince George Dock 'Off Limits' To CAT Operators

Plans to re-launch a Catamaran service between New Providence and Florida have once again been stalled.

Bahamas Florida Express, a partner with Bahamas Ferries, claims they were presently negotiating with the Ministry of Transport to service the Port of Nassau from Prince George Dock, but the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Glenys Hanna-Martin, said that Prince George Dock was presently off limits.

"With Prince George Dock, we are in the middle of preparing our plan to comply with the ISPS Code on July 1. It has a number of implications, mainly immigration, customs and security issues," said Mrs Hanna-Martin in an interview with The Guardian on Tuesday. The Ministry of Transport and Aviation has to update its security measures at ports to meet the International Ship and Port Facility Security Standards (ISPS) before July 1, 2004. The code was released by the International Maritime Organization in December 2002 and requires all ships over 500 metric tons to be lifted and fitted with a tracking device. All 1500 ships registered under the Bahamian flag would be expected to comply with the provisions of the ISPS Code, and each ship is expected to have in place a ship security plan. Mrs Hanna-Martin said the ISPS Code would significantly impact the tourism industry and her ministry had to be very "careful and cautious" to ensure that they complied with the code.

Bahamas Florida Express claimed in a an advertisement published in The Guardian last week Thursday that they were working with the government to come to an agreement on servicing the Port of Nassau at Prince George Wharf to establish a proposed Nassau/Ft. Lauderdale route, but were waiting to be granted approval from the Ministry of Transport. "Should approval for the use of Prince George Dock not be forthcoming, BFE would be forced to reconsider its position on both (Nassau and Grand Bahama) routes," the advertisement stated.

On the other hand, Mrs Hanna-Martin said Bahamas Florida Express received Ministry approval "months ago" to offer its services from Nassau to Ft Lauderdale, but this approval was subject to the feasibility of Prince George Dock. She additionally stated that her ministry had received recommendations from all agencies and Cabinet was now considering the matter. "I have urged the principles of the company, in the interim, to seek an alternative site, if it is determined that Prince George Dock is not feasible, also having regard to all the issues in particular, security matters," she said. "They seem to be focusing almost single-mindedly on Prince George Dock. It is being considered by Cabinet now, but there are some implications that have to be considered, which are security concerns." All attempts to reach the Chairman of Bahamas Florida Express since last week Friday proved fruitless.

Meanwhile, the published advertisement placed by Bahamas Florida Express also informed its customers and friends that the CAT, its high-speed ferry service between Grand Bahama Island and Fort Lauderdale has been temporarily suspended. The advertisement claimed that the suspension was due in part to the fact that the vessel chosen to replace the CAT became unavailable for service during the summer season. It outlined, however, that Bahamas Florida Express was currently in negotiations to procure a suitable replacement vessel and anticipated a prompt resumption of service. The advertisement further stated that immediately following the granting of approval from the Ministry of Transport, BFE would resume service to Freeport and initiate a new service to Nassau.

In an earlier interview with The Guardian in January, Chief Marketing Officer of Bahamas Ferries Khaalis Rolle said that if they were granted approval to operate a Nassau/Florida route, the company would be willing to make an investment in the Prince George Wharf facility at no expense to the government. He claimed that they would be willing to lease a space at Prince George Dock on an annual basis from the government, which would result in a significant source of revenue. He also added at the time that, if the CAT operated out of Nassau, it would cost the company an estimated $60,000 a day to operate.

Tamara McKenzie, The Nassau Guardian

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